The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (hereinafter “the Stockholm Convention” or “the Convention”) is a multilateral treaty designed to eliminate or reduce the production, use, and release of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and DDT, as such chemicals are highly persistent in the environment, bioaccumulative, toxic to humans and other organisms, and have a potential for long-range transport. The Convention also controls the proper disposal of waste containing POPs. The Convention entered into force on May 17, 2004.
The latest text and annexes to the Convention are the 2019 version (as revised), as of March 2022. There are currently 184 Party nations to the Convention and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) serves as a secretariat thereof.
Article 6, Paragraph 1(d)(ii) of the Convention (“Measures to reduce or eliminate releases from stockpiles and wastes”) states “International regulations, standards and guidelines and relevant global and regional systems governing the management of hazardous wastes, that the disposal is carried out in such a way that components that are persistent organic pollutants are destroyed or irreversibly converted so that they no longer exhibit the characteristics of persistent organic pollutants, or that the destruction or irreversible conversion does not constitute an environmentally preferable option, or that the disposal is carried out in such a way that the persistent organic pollutants are no longer environmentally preferable. The Paragraph 2 of the same Article requires for Conference of the Parties to “cooperate closely with the appropriate bodies of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal to” party states “work to establish, as appropriate, the concentration levels of the chemicals listed in Annexes A, B and C in order to define the low persistent organic pollutant content referred to in paragraph 1 (d) (ii)”.
In response to Chapter 17 (“Protection of The Oceans, All Kinds of Seas, Including Enclosed and Semi-enclosed Seas, And Coastal Areas and The Protection, Rational Use and Development of Their Living Resources”) of Agenda 21 of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (as known as “Earth Summit”), the Global Programme of Action for the Protection for the Marine Environment from Land‒based Activities (GPA) was adopted by the UNEP Intergovernmental Panel in 1995. The GPA called for the formulation of an international convention to eliminate or reduce emissions of 12 types of POPs. Based on this, the UNEP 19th Governing Council session in 1997 became the occasion for five intergovernmental negotiation committee meetings, resulting in the adoption of the Convention at the Conference of the Plenipotentiaries, held in Stockholm in May 2001.
The chemicals targeted by the Convention are listed in three Annexes:
- Annex A (Elimination);
- Annex B (Restriction); and/or
- Annex C (Unintentional Production)
Chemicals targeted are discussed by the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC), a group of experts that meets once a year, and then determined by the Conference of the Parties (COP.), which meets once every two years.
The POPRC will recommend chemicals to be covered by the Convention to the COP through three steps described below:
- Deliberation on suitability for candidate chemicals in terms of the screening criteria specified in Annex D to the Convention (“Information Requirements and Screening Criteria”);
- Discussion of the draft risk profiles as set forth in Annex E (“Information requirements for Risk Profile”); and
- Deliberation on drafted Risk Management Evaluation.
The table below shows the chemicals listed in each Annex (as of March 2022).
|annex||Number of chemicals listed||Listed chemicals (names of 12 types of POPs as of the effective date of the Convention)|
Recent developments in the Stockholm Convention
For recent updates on POPRCs, please see reports below.
- POPRC15 (October 1–4, 2019)
Stockholm Convention’s expert committee recommends elimination of PFHxS, and further examination on DP
- POPRC16 (January 11–16, 2021)
Results of 16th meeting of Stockholm Convention’s Review Committee
- POPRC17 (January 24–28, 2022)
Stockholm Convention’s 17th review committee meeting result
- PORC18 (September 26-30, 2022)
POPs Convention Review Committee 18th meeting discusses listing Dechlorane Plus and UV-328 to Annex A
Recent Trends in POPs Regulations in Asian Countries
In Asian countries, national laws against POPs have also been strengthened in response to the Stockholm Convention. For a summary of the regulatory status of PFOA in each country, please see below article.
PFOA regulations in Asian countries